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Across Canada, the spread of COVID-19 is forcing us to navigate new ways of working, relaxing, and spending time with family and friends.

SIRC had been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation. On March 13, 2020, CEO Debra Gassewitz implemented SIRC’s Pandemic Response Plan, developed to support risk management and SIRC’s obligation as an employer to provide a healthy and safe workplace. The Response Plan shifted all employees to remote working and cancelled all non-essential travel. This blog takes an inside look at some of the strategies the SIRC team has used to overcome the challenges of isolation and physical distancing over the last month.

Keeping connected

For a highly integrated and collaborative team, not being able to walk over to someone’s desk (or shout across the office!) was a significant change. We immediately turned to video conferencing platforms to support communication and engagement. We’ve been experimenting with Zoom, Skype and Adobe Connect – all have their pros and cons. Strong social connections at work can make people happier, reduce stress, and improve work performance. Promising practices that have emerged include:

  • Continue routines – Regular check-ins and meetings have continued. For example, Monday mornings used to kick off with a 20 minute stand-up whiteboard meeting, where everyone identified key tasks for the week ahead. Those meetings have now gone virtual, although we’re still exploring options for an online whiteboard (we LOVE whiteboards at the SIRC office!). Other regular meetings on key tasks and projects have also continued, ensuring our weeks have structure and everyone has a sense of purpose and accountability.
  • Maintain social support – Daily 8:45am social check-ins have been the most significant addition to our schedules. Whether talking about our favorite Netflix binges or important government announcements, these 15 minute morning video calls over coffee or tea kick-off our workdays and provide an opportunity to chitchat with people other than our families or pets. Most importantly, they help ensure the team feels connected to a valuable support network.

Maintaining Our Physical and Mental Health

The SIRC team is a relatively active bunch, so maintaining our physical activity routines has been important to the team’s morale. Two strategies have supported the team’s active living:

  • Physical Activity Challenges – Research suggests competition is a stronger motivator for exercise than friendly support. The SIRC team has put this research into practice using the Challenge Hound app  to tap into our competitive natures. The platform lets you track activities and compete against your teammates (or family or friends) towards a goal. It also integrates with existing tracking apps, such as Strava. Our March challenge focused on minutes of physical activity; April focuses on the number of physical activity breaks per day. The challenges provide a common topic of conversation during our social calls as colleagues share training and activity ideas (from Zwift to free yoga to good walking routes while practicing physical distancing), as well as giving kudos for epic efforts.
  • Workout Wednesdays – Once a week, the team connects virtually for a 15 minute pre-lunch physical activity break, led by a different team member each week. Week one was a gentle full body stretch, but we’re somewhat worried competitive personalities may soon turn this into a HIIT class! We’ve also extended invitations to former teammates and colleagues in other small organizations, as one way to take care of our network. Sitting all day can have short and long-term health implications. We make it a priority to take microbreaks during the day and find time for regular physical activity and exercise breaks.

Unplugging and Unwinding

These are challenging times, and many in our community are experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety and grief. Whether it’s sitting down for a meal or a boardgame with family or housemates (with whom you’re socially isolating), connecting virtually to catch up with a friend, or taking a solo walk in the woods, the SIRC team has taken an intentional approach to finding ways to nurture our mental health and have some fun.

At these times people are often looking for comfort – and what better way than with your favourite sport-related films! The SIRC team recently shared their favourite picks – offering a range of stories about teamwork, leadership, resilience and hope.

  • Coach Carter – Mezi Tamrat, Knowledge Mobilization Coordinator
  • The Grizzlies – Kim Gurtler, Operations and Program Manager
  • Invictus – Kamie Brookes, Event Coordinator
  • The Mighty Ducks – Peter Morrow, Knowledge Mobilization Specialist
  • Seabiscuit – Megan Roberts, Content Coordinator
  • The Blindside – Debra Gassewitz, President & CEO
  • Unbroken – Carla Anderson, Special Projects
  • A League of their Own – Ann Pegoraro, Researcher in Residence
  • Field of Dreams – Sydney Millar, Strategic Content Manager

Cuddle up with some popcorn, or join some friends via Netflix Party, and indulge in a little escape! What are your go-to sport-related movies? Let us know on Twitter.

We’re Here to Help

In addition to sharing our approach to managing remote working and healthy living during physical distancing, SIRC is also working on a variety of new content to ensure the sport community has access to credible information to stay healthy and continue to advance the sport system. Looking for evidence-informed insight on something specific? Let us know! SIRC will also be showcasing the leadership and inspiring actions of other organizations and athletes to support our community. Stay in the loop by signing up for the Canadian Sport Daily, our daily newsletter delivering sport and physical activity-related knowledge, news and resources.

We are stronger together.

If there is any support the SIRC team can provide for your organization during this time, please contact us.

Still mastering the art of working from home? You’re not alone!  Discover how SIRC is embracing physical distancing: visit SIRC’s YouTube page for more.

About the Author(s)

As SIRC’s Manager of Content Strategy, Sydney Millar solicits, supports and curates content from researchers, experts and thought leaders from the broad sport and physical activity sector, and provides leadership on key national projects. Sydney stays active with her dog Shadow, and exploring the roads of Watopia on Zwift.

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.